Aleksander Kasimovich (Mirza Muhammad Ali) Kazem-bek starts a conversation about Moslems, underlining the low level of their spiritual development, and noting that after 1200 years of their political existence it stands at the same low level as it stood at the beginning. However, he notes that the history of Islam and the Arab-Moslem culture makes it possible to talk about the repeated triumph of Moslems over Christians, even in the nineteenth century, when Europe seemed to leave Moslems far behind, they continue to evoke keen interest.
The author explains the success of Moslems with the natural law of the life renewal, when new elements replace the old ones. As Byzantium replaced the Roman Empire, so the Byzantine Empire was replaced with the Moslem world. He draws parallels between the political life of state and the nature, similizing the evolution of state to the development of a living organism. Thus, according to the laws of nature, an organism that has reached the highest point of its development perishes, and new organisms fill the empty space. That is, the extinction of forces of one people leads to the activity of new forces. That very new force, at some point, was connected with Arabs. Forty years after their appearance on the political arena, they have already dominated Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, Armenia, parts of Turkestan, Egypt, North Africa, and many islands of the Mediterranean Sea; and fifty years later, they took possession of Spain.
Starting his narration with the natural law of the life renewal, K. addressed to the political life of Arabia on the eve of Islam. Particularly, in the second chapter, he described in details the history of the Byzantine Empire and characterized its relations with Persia.
In the third chapter, he describes the political life of Arabia itself, which allowed Muhammad to establish a new religion and to conquer significant territories under the banner of Islam. He emphasizes that the life on the Arabian Peninsula was determined by its geographical location. He characterizes Arabs primarily as nomads seeking to preserve their freedom and independence. The author pays special attention to their habitual robbery of other peoples; and he interprets it as their nature. In general, according to K., the character of Arabs was shaped under the influence of their natural milieu, common-day life, and legends. Speaking about the Arabs, K. gives a long quote from Washington Irving about the Arabs from his work ‘The Life of Magomed’ translated by P. Kireevsky.
The fourth chapter deals with the political activities of Arabians, which was characterized primarily by their tribal enmity. The author talks about the importance of Mecca and its Kaaba sanctuary for the inhabitants of Arabia. From the description of the inhabitants of the Hijaz K. proceeds to a consideration on the political history of Yemen which was quite different from the life of the northern and central regions of the Arabian Peninsula. The author cites stories about Zou Nouvas and the Ethiopian governor Abrah – the attempts by Jews and Christians to establish their religions on the territories of Southern Arabia. Along with political changes and hostility between Jews and Christians, another important factor that contributed to the success of Muhammad, according to K., was his poetic gift manifested itself in the Quran verses, highly appreciated by his comrades.
In the fifth chapter, the author declares that the freedom-loving nature of Arabs impeded Muhammad's power-loving aspirations. However, his conquests contributed to his authority among fellow tribesmen. Knowing the habits of Arabs and their passion for robbery, he tried to attract them with the promise of vigorous activity, fame, and wealth, and made jihad one of the most important dogmas of religion. The author depicts Muhammad as a visionary political leader who, while traveling around Syria with a caravan, came up with an ambitious idea to try his luck in countries deprived of serious protection.
In the second issue of his work (No 5 of the magazine) the author starts the description of the East in its religious peculiarities. He immediately stipulates that for this task it is necessary to turn to the beliefs of the Ancient East, to its philosophy, doctrines, and reforms, and from them – further, to Christian sects. At the same time, the author notes: pagan beliefs will be characterized only to a small extent.
On his opinion, religions of the Ancient East, besides Judaism, were Buddhism and ‘Magicism’. Eastern philosophy in search for truth only multiplied the number of sects of polytheists and fire worshipers. The author mentions the influence of Greek philosophy on the development of the Oriental one. According to K., Greek philosophy was certainly better than the latter one. He was convinced that Zarathustra and Buddha followers, as well as those who venerated magic, did everything to keep people in chains of ignorance and deception, while Greek philosophers tried to limit the influence of their philosophy on people; so, it would not weaken the local folk beliefs. The East was distinguished with the unbridled power of the priests and mystics.
After the comparison of Greek and Eastern mystical philosophy, the author turns to a description of the gradual settlement of Jews at the Arabian Peninsula, and the dissemination there Judaic religion, which became popular among the pagans.
The second chapter deals with the position of Jews. Before the arrival of the Savior to Palestine, there were two dominant religious systems: the Judean, and the Samaritan. Despite the lack of detailed information, K. characterizes the Samaritan doctrine. In particular, he notes that the Samaritans were expecting the Messiah, convinced that he would be their spiritual teacher and mentor.
As for the Judaic doctrine, it has undergone changes, many sects and teachings appeared, among which Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes were the most important in the first centuries of Christianity. Since these teachings had much in common with Islam, K. considers it necessary to describe them in a detailed way. Speaking about Essenes, he finds similarities of their ritual practice with Moslem mysticism.
The third chapter is about Christianity, which K. interprets as manifestation of the true light that dispels darkness. However, a lot of sects appeared there, weakening the Christian doctrine and allowing Muhammad to use a part of their views to establish his own teaching.
The author describes the age of Apostles, who were persecuted and, at the same time, taken by ordinary people for gods in human form. He speaks of the Ebionite sect, Judaists, who converted to Christianity, and also influenced at the teaching of Muhammad. The author also mentions Kerinfids and describes their views.
Next, he comes to a description of the religious situation in the second, third and fourth centuries. At that period, particularly, he mentions the teaching of Arius. In the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries, the main Christian teachings, which also subsequently influenced Muhammad, were Monophysitism and Nestorianism.
Completing the description of philosophy and doctrines of various branches of Christianity of the seventh century, K. came to the conclusion, that this was a time of a number of religious errors, when people's minds were full of ignorance; and Muhammad succeeded to use them. First of all, it allowed him to call himself a prophet, promised by God to Moses, and Paraclete, foretold in the New Testament. The differences between Judaists and Christians regarding the Holy Scriptures were also used by him to criticize both religions. The author declares that the true Christian doctrine of Orthodox Catholic Church could not reach Muhammad, because he was surrounded by Nestorians and Monophysites. Those circumstances allowed him to establish a new religion, armed with ‘unheard of fanaticism’.